In recent years, influencer marketing has established itself as a highly-effective method for brands to build and engage with audiences on social media. It is well-documented that influencers and their authentic content creation can help brands grab the attention of consumers and gain their trust, but the question has remained: Does influencer marketing actually directly impact sales at scale?
We set out to solve this industry pressure point through a study to measure if influencer campaigns can achieve sales goals, exposing the types of metrics that have been used to justify social campaigns to brand in the past. Our comprehensive study was the result of a partnership with brands, retailers and research partners to measure 12 influencer campaigns that each spanned eight to 12 weeks. The study measured the sales impact of each campaign, which spanned five consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories and involved over 450 influencers.
Earned media value (EMV) should no longer be the standard for the influencer marketing industry. Here's how influencer marketing measurement has evolved and what new benchmarks for ROI mean for the future of the industry.
How Influencer Marketing Campaigns Have Been Measured In The Past
Many companies have used impressions as a metric to prove the impact of a campaign. Empty metrics like this only showed the potential number of consumers that came in contact with influencer content. A shift from potential actions to measuring actions that actually happened (such as page views with meaningful amounts of time on post and social engagements such as likes, shares and pins), proved to be a better way for marketers to understand the value of their spend. Even more, until now, the best metric for proving ROI in influencer marketing has been earned media value or total media value.
Established methods for measuring digital marketing campaigns and their impact on e-commerce sales have existed for a while now since all engagements and transactions occur in the same online arena. Yet being able to prove how influencer marketing campaigns affect in-store activity and sales required a more rigorous analysis.
What We Learned
Our study investigated influencer marketing's impact across multiple categories and on factors like foot traffic, basket size and coupon redemption. Here's what we learned.
When measured with loyalty card data, influencer content can drive sales and increase basket size. Loyalty cards can reveal a lot about a shopper - what products they purchase, how much they purchase and when they shop. When these same shoppers are targeted with relevant influencer content, they spend more. This finding was reflected when we examined a campaign for a popular confection brand and its impact at multiple retailers. The result? Audiences exposed to influencer content spent an incremental $639,700 more than audiences not exposed to this content.
Using point of sale (POS) data, influencer marketing can drive true measurable sales lift. Retail sales lift can be complicated to measure when considering influencer campaigns and content. Many factors make proving verified-sales-lift from influencer campaigns a non-trivial task compared to established online e-commerce data. We learned the key to being able to measure sales lift is by sticking to the duration of a specific campaign. (This way, lift numbers are not skewed by seasonal marketing pulses, especially if reading influencer campaigns off major media blitzes.) Results showed that an influencer campaign created for a laundry detergent product produced a $233,000 sales lift for the brand, and a campaign created for a frozen entree advertiser resulted in a $50,900 lift.
Influencer marketing directly impacts sales through redemptions for promotional offers. Influencer marketing campaigns often feature a promotion or coupon factor. Now we know that pairing a digital coupon or rebate with pertinent content like a recipe or tutorial can actually drive sales because of the combination of inspirational content and a great deal. Results for a rice brand that wanted to drive trial of their product at Walmart by increasing coupon redemptions through influencer content reported a 44.8% redemption rate versus a historical rate of only 15%.
When measured with foot traffic data, influencer marketing increases engagement. What drives people to go to a brick-and-mortar store versus shopping online? Can the right content increase foot traffic and increase basket size? Now we know the answer is yes. Pixel data allows clients to target an audience they know is already interested in their product or brand. Our results showed that 48% of the consumers exposed to influencer content visited the retailer highlighted in the content within four days, versus only 29% in the group not exposed to influencer content.
What's Next For Data Science-Backed Influencer Marketing
The future is in shopper-driven content intelligence. Using shopper behavioral and basket data by product to deliver recommendations about the optimal content will allow marketers to create strategic insights at the beginning of any influencer initiative. Leveraging this data will also help marketers inform the timeframes in which content is in the market to maximize sales impact. Influencer marketing is evolving and is much more than mere influencer selection.
By looking at market basket analysis, the industry will be able to shorten purchase cycles across retailers, uncovering which items are being purchased most alongside specific brands to develop shopper strategies. This intelligence will allow marketers to combine online engagement data from influencer content with offline purchases to understand what motivates shoppers and better inform influencer content strategies.